Bonus photo: Iditarod sledding race, Alaska
Lakhvi is accused of being the mastermind of the 2008 gun and bomb attacks in Mumbai which claimed the lives of 166 people [AFP]
Islamabad, PAKISTAN – A Pakistani court has declared the continued detention of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the operational chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, void.
The Islamabad High Court accepted an appeal from Lakhvi that challenged his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Act during a hearing on Friday.
It is unclear if Lakhvi, who has been in prison since 2009, will be released, as the government has challenged similar judgments in the past. He is currently in custody at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit following the court order to “convey its outrage” at the decision, according to a statement…
Related: India is not happy.
Germany is bracing itself for a period of chaos and instability amid claims Greece will exit from the euro.
Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he is resigned to the possibility of a Greek exit from the calamitous euro experiment.
In a TV interview on Thursday evening he was asked if he could envisage it and he replied: ‘Yes, because the responsibility, the ability to decide what happens, resides with the Greeks, and because we do not know what the leaders intend to do in Greece, we cannot exclude it.’
Chancellor Angela Merkel has also run out of patience with the new anti-austerity government in Athens, reports suggested.
Their comments represent a tectonic shift from the previous undiluted support Germany offered Greece – a country whose financial mismanagement is loathed by EU lawmakers.
And in recent days tensions between Berlin and Athens have spiked even further.
The new Tsipras government first threatened to seize German businesses and assets if Germany did not provide billions of pounds of compensation for damages caused during the Nazi occupation during World War II…
A member of militias known as Hashid Shaabi kneels as he celebrates victory while smoke rises from a clash with Islamic State militants, in the town of al-Alam, Iraq, March 10, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Wars often degrade into numbers games of competing troop strengths, arsenals, territory held, bombing runs, and body counts. But judging an asymmetric conflict is complicated, and the battle against Islamic State involves militaries that are, in most respects, vastly different.
In Iraq, the battle for Tikrit reflects the imbalances and oddities. In Syria, the aftermath of the battle for Kobani shows how victories in this war are not always clean or decisive.
In Tikrit, some 30,000 have been fighting to retake Saddam Hussein’s home town. There are at least three disparate forces–the Iraqi army, an umbrella group of Shiite militias, and Sunni tribal fighters–with senior military advisers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards providing strategy. They attacked ISIS simultaneously on three fronts.
ISIS had only hundreds of militants in Tikrit, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited Iraq this week.
By numbers alone, the first major Iraqi offensive against ISIS should have been a romp…
Minnesota has “Somali malls” and now at least one of those malls has a large mosque.
Construction of the metro area’s newest mosque involved a shopping trip to the Middle East, some back-and-forth with the city of Minneapolis and a reported $3 million investment.
But developer Basim Sabri says setting out to build one of Minnesota’s largest mosques at his Karmel Square mall wasn’t a vanity project. Instead, the space — part of a major expansion at Karmel — was meant as a goodwill gesture to the local Somalis who rent and shop at the south Minneapolis mall.
The expansion has tested Sabri’s famously tense relationships with the city and the mall’s neighbors, who have voiced concerns over parking and traffic issues. Part of the construction collapsed in May, cutting off electricity to the neighborhood and briefly stalling the project.
Since it opened earlier this year, the mosque has gotten rave reviews from a growing cadre of worshipers, who cover the sun-filled, 5,000-square-foot prayer hall completely when they kneel at Friday prayer.
“This mosque is not about showing off,” said Sabri. “It’s about need”…
(NYT) — The website of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges that NATO has played a “central role” in the country’s security and insists that Turkey, which became a member in 1952, “attaches utmost importance” to it. Yet Turkey’s commitment to the alliance has never seemed more ambivalent than it does now.
On crucial issues — from fighting the Islamic State to fielding integrated defense systems, which share information and operate together, to standing firm against Russian aggression in Ukraine — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government either are not cooperating fully or are acting in outright defiance of NATO’s priorities and interests. Add the fact that Turkey under Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian, and it becomes apparent that the country is drifting away from an alliance whose treaty says it is “founded on the principles of democracy” as much as defense.
For months, the Western allies have pressured Turkey to close its porous border, which has allowed thousands of jihadists to cross into Syria to join the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and has enabled ISIS to smuggle in weapons and smuggle out oil on which it relies for revenue.
Students at Istanbul University’s Art History Department have elicited administrative disapproval after a 16th century Italian work they selected for an event poster was deemed “bawdy” by authorities.
“What is this? Cover it up this way or that way!” the faculty’s secretary-general, Aliye Yücel, reportedly said after seeing Tiziano Vecellio’s “Amor Sacro e Amor Profano” (Sacred and Profane Love), which the students wanted to use on a poster for a panel on the history of beauty.
“This news should not be run. I will talk to them,” Yücel said when asked to comment on the matter by Hürriyet Campus, adding that she would refuse to speak further on the issue…
Only in academe can a panel discussion on Islamic terrorism turn into an exercise in obfuscation and denial. Titled “Shooting Rampage in Paris: Free Speech, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Religion, Islamophobia,” the recent University of California, Berkeley panel—which promised to “start a dialog” on the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks in Paris—featured six professors from a variety of UC Berkeley departments.
This mixture produced an array of contrasting views, yet neither of the two Middle East studies specialists involved—anthropology professor Saba Mahmood and Hatem Bazian, a Near Eastern studies lecturer and founder of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project—addressed the topic in a forthright manner, but deflected controversial issues and issued apologias for terrorism.
The large audience of students, faculty and community members filled Booth Auditorium in UC Berkeley’s law school, Boalt Hall, where Saba Mahmood began the discussion. She claimed to be a “longstanding defender of the right to free speech,” yet condemned “the wide call in European and American media to recirculate and celebrate the [Charlie Hebdo] cartoons” and Slate editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg’s promise “to escalate blasphemous satire,” which she likened to an “escalation on the attack against France’s most beleaguered minority”…
Islamic State prepares to throw a gay man off a building
(Reuters) – A German court fined the father and two uncles of an 18-year-old Muslim citizen for depriving him of his personal freedom when he was a minor in an attempt, the victim says, to force him into marriage with a woman despite his homosexuality.
In a case highlighting the problems Germany faces in integrating its four-million-strong Muslim community, Nasser El-Ahmad, who has a Lebanese background, has also told German media that his family tortured him for being gay.
Found in a car at the Romanian-Bulgarian border two days after he went missing in December 2012, prompting an Interpol alert, El-Ahmad says he was kidnapped by his family in order to arrange his marriage to a Lebanese girl.
After a five-minute hearing on Thursday, the judge handed the three accused men, who were not present, fines of 1,350 euros ($1,436) each for detaining him and taking him abroad.
El-Ahmad, wearing a black shirt and trousers, black earrings and a “STOP HOMOPHOBIA” badge, said the court had done what it deemed right. “I did what I have the strength to do. At least this came to court, I’m happy about that,” he said, adding he had not expected his relatives to turn up. “I’m not someone who hides. I don’t want to suppress my sexuality”…
At least his family didn’t try to throw him off a high building.
Armenian children during WW I in Turkey. Source.
Turkish Foreign Ministry on March 14 slammed the human rights report adopted by the European Parliament, saying that the report lacked historical reality and legal basis.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgiç said in a written statement that the report interpreted the event with a one-sided approach and disregarded Turkey’s realistic and constructive initiatives relating to the matter.
The European Parliament adopted on March 12 the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2013.
Article 77 of the report called “ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, on all the member states to legally acknowledge it, and encourages the member states and the EU institutions to contribute further to its recognition”…
Tunis (AFP) – Tunisian authorities arrested a popular comedian and a television show host Friday for offending President Beji Caid Essebsi, whose office promptly denied it had anything to do with the case.
“The prosecutor has decided to place in detention” satirist Migalo, whose real name is Wassim Lahrissi, and television host Moez Ben Gharbia, spokesman Sofiene Sliti said.
The two “committed an offence against the head of state, a fraud,” by inappropriately representing themselves as someone else, and will remain behind bars until they appear in court on March 25.
“We will not enter into the details of the case” so as not to undermine the investigation, Sliti said…
Damage to Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church, after Oct. 31, 2010 attack in Baghdad
Discussions ricochet around Pope Francis’ ability to reconcile the Catholic Church’s bureaucracy, theology and practitioners. But for a man of Francis’ scope and skill, this is too narrow an assignment. His real task, for which he is ideally situated, is to prevent the world’s descent into religious war…
…Pope Francis has long recognized the honorable aspects of Islam. When he expressed sympathy for Muslims who defend the Quran as “a book of peace” and prayed in the Blue Mosque of Istanbul facing Mecca, he was drawing on long ties with Muslim believers. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he visited the Islamic Center in his city, wrote a greeting in the visitor book using the Muslim prayer-title for God (”I give thanks to God, the Merciful”) and became a friend of the center’s president.
He is a man with deep personal connections to other religious leaders, and he is able to discern the varying strands and historical stages of their faiths…
The holy war is already going on. And guess who’s winning? What are these writers thinking?
Being a Social Justice Warrior is hard work! What better way to show the world you are serious then power-up with magical potions…
DENVER (AP) — A Saudi national who was denied a request to serve out the reminder of a Colorado prison sentence in his home country is suing prosecutors and FBI agents for defamation.
In a federal lawsuit filed Friday, Homaidan al-Turki says the officials claimed he had terrorist ties and mischaracterized his crimes in order to derail his transfer.
Then-prisons director Tom Clements initially approved al-Turki’s transfer, but Clements reversed his decision in March 2013, one week before he was killed at his home in Monument, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Denver.
The lawsuit says Clements changed his mind because the officials said al-Turki was a national security threat with ties to U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Turki owned a company that some years ago sold CDs of sermons recorded by al-Awlaki, but the lawsuit says he had no ties to him by the time al-Awlaki became a radicalized Islamic militant…
Just these days KEPA, the organizers of the annual World Village Festival in Helsinki, decided to ban a Jewish Zionist NGO – KKL – from participating in this year’s festival. KKL or JNF was founded in 1901 in order to purchase land in the Land of Israel. The same organization is today involved in nature preservation, forestation and water management. KKL is an accredited United Nation’s NGO.
The main themes of this year’s World Village Festival are Africa and the Middle East. The existence of the Jewish state in this region probably does not fit into the organizers’ agenda. So KEPA, the organizing body of WVF funded by public Finnish money, chose to accept general unspecified allegations and accusations raised from those who deny Israel’s right to exist, and simply decided to get rid of this nuisance…